A career defining opportunity: In-house counsel are uniquely qualified to shine in a crisis

In-house counsel demonstrate key skills that are in high demand and short supply, writes Tim Wilbur

The COVID pandemic has wrought much human suffering, so seeing it as opportunity can seem wrong-headed at best, heartless at worst. But, for in-house counsel, the pandemic could offer them a key opportunity to shine. 

The lawyers profiled in this edition, many of whom are working on initiatives that predate the pandemic, demonstrate some of the key skills that are in high demand and short supply in this challenging time:

Communication: Like politicians, business and public institutions are handling unprecedented conditions that require a clear message. Julia Shin Doi of Ryerson University has always been tasked with communication in her role, so co-ordinating her virtual team was a familiar challenge. 

“Technology has made such a difference. There will be no turning back after this,” she said in outlining how she communicated with her team.

Balancing risk and reward: For cybersecurity, companies must strike a fine balance. As Imran Ahmad said , “A lot of people turn to in-house counsel as the best risk management advisor within the organization because they can balance legal and business in a meaningful way.” The pandemic also requires a similar balance; in this case, between ensuring society remains healthy but also functions economically.

Tracking data and implementing efficienciesLynn Mahoney at Bruce Power said a system her team is implementing allows it to track requests from the organization’s 4,300 employees and produce metrics to help monitor trends. As systems are designed to track health metrics in the pandemic, Mahoney could likely provide lessons learned. 

Taking an ethical approach: In-house counsel are often the moral compass at their organizations, as Cheryl Foy and Ken Fredeen outline in their Ethics column. With rights of privacy and personal safety at stake in the pandemic response, in-house counsel have the experience to navigate the difficult decisions facing leaders across Canada.

While in-house counsel do not welcome a crisis any more than anyone else, they are uniquely qualified to shine when one comes along. They should not feel shy to see the current crisis as an unprecedented opportunity to show us why. 

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